Pirelli responds to Hamilton's warning over tyre blanket ban


Pirelli has deemed as "understandable" Lewis Hamilton's warning over the dangers of a tyre blanket ban in F1, but the company nevertheless offered some context to the Mercedes driver's remarks.

As part of Formula 1's sustainability efforts, Pirelli is working on producing a tyre that would no longer require blanket warmers, with an introduction being considered for 2024.

Tyre blankets have been an integral part of F1 for over three decades, meaning a ban will be a big change for teams and drivers alike.

However, it's a complicated evolution and Pirelli's development work is ongoing. But Hamilton, who had an opportunity to sample Pirelli's prototype tyres at both Jerez and Paul Ricard earlier this year as part of the Italian manufacturers' development programme, was unhappy with his first impressions of the product.

"I think it’s dangerous," he said in Bahrain last week when queried on the matter. "I’ve tested the no blankets, and there is going to be an incident at some stage. So, from a safety factor I think it is the wrong decision.

"You have to drive multiple laps to get the tyres to work," he added. "The whole argument is that taking away the blankets is going more sustainable and more green, but in actual fact we just use more fuel to get the temperature into the tyres.

"More of a concern is when you go out: you are skating around and it is very twitchy. If someone else is on tyres that are working, you can easily collide with them. So it is a pointless exercise."

Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola was attentive to Hamilton's views and worries, and admitted that they were not without merit, although he underscored the somewhat extreme conditions in which the seven-time world champion sampled the tyres as well as their stage of development.

"Lewis tested the tyres in Paul Ricard beginning of February," explained Isola. "It was quite cold in that period. And clearly, we tested some tyres that are not in their final shape or are not the final version of the tyres that we want to homologate without blankets.

"I understand the comment, because also consider that the drivers are used to exiting the pitlane and to drive a car with tyres that are able to generate more or less the grip that that they have when they stabilise. So it's a completely different approach also for them.

"I understand the point that if in the out-lap one car is, I don't know, 10 seconds slower than another car, this is creating a speed differential that must be considered. I believe that Lewis's comment was also related to this. And it's a fair comment."

F1 has given the green light to the introduction this year from Imola of a wet weather tyre that does not require tyre blankets. The validation was provided following positive feedback from those drivers who tested the product.

Isola equated this to a first milestone in the ultimate process of producing a full range - six compounds - of blanket-free tyres.

“The next step is I hope we are successful this year to find an intermediate tyre that is able to work without the blankets," he said. "And at the same time, we have a development plan for slick tyres.

"We have asked for few days more than usual to develop these new tyres without blankets to achieve the target to remove the blankets in 2024.

"So it's a long journey. It's just the first step. It's a big technical challenge because we have to redesign completely their construction and all the compounds."

To those who point to other championships, including Formula 2, that don't use blankets, Isola is quick to remind them that there is no comparison between F1 and, for instance, its feeder series.

"One question that I had a lot of times is you supply F2 without blankets, so what is the difference with F1," he says.

"The difference is 10 seconds per lap. So that means that if you translate that into the energy that an F1 car is able to put into the tyres, it's a different world.

"We will decide altogether if we are at the right level, or if we need more time to develop a tyre able to work without blankets and without affecting the show," he added.

"Because another important thing that we have to consider is that last year we had a fantastic championship.

"We had a lot of action, we had a lot of different strategies, we had a mix of one-stop, two-stops, that is exactly what spectators want to see. We don't want to change this situation.

"That means that we want to provide a tyre able to work without blankets but with the same characteristics as the current tyres. This is an additional level of difficulty."

Pirelli will conduct another test after next summer's British Grand prix, after which Formula 1, the teams and the FIA will carry out a vote that will seal the fate of blankets in F1, one way or the other, for 2024.

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